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Dog Training: You May Be Sending Mixed Signals

 by wai on 05 Mar 2014 |
1 Comment(s)

Humans have been training dogs for thousands of years.  So naturally, you might assume that we would have it down to a science by now.  But all too often, new dog owners contribute to canine misbehavior by making honest mistakes that send mixed signals to their four-footed companions.  Unfortunately, these mistakes can lead to long periods of frustration and strained canine/human relations.  Here are a few of the most common mistakes that people make when trying to get their pets trained.

Broken Record Syndrome

Oftentimes, dog owners repeat a command like “sit” over and over again thinking that repetition will bring results.  Professional dog trainers say, however, that a dog will become desensitized to continuous repetition and will basically learn to ignore the command.  And there are other psychological reasons that a dog doesn’t respond.  For example, strong-willed dogs do not like to lie down because it is an act of submission.  Similarly, submissive dogs may feel unsafe when they are told to lie down.  One of the best things a dog owner can do to elicit proper behavior from their dog is to spend time with them.  Take them for walks.  Play with them.  And make sure you are the one who feeds them.  When a dog feels bonded with its owner, it will respond more readily to commands – even those that they don’t like.

Confusing Language

A dog owner that is attempting to train their pet should understand a few principles of dog psychology before they get too far into the process.  One of those principles is how dogs understand our words.  Remember, they do not know English, Spanish, or French.  They simply learn to associate a word with an action.  So when you use different phrases for the same command like “sit” and “sit down,” your dog will become confused.  They aren’t cognitively able to understand that “come” and “come here” mean the same thing.  The same goes for non-verbal language as well.  For example, you are sending mixed signals if you pat your leg to get your dog to come to you one day and snap your fingers the next day.  For the best results when it comes to dog training, stick with simple one-word commands where possible and be consistent with your physical hand signals. 

Training Session Length

Dog training is a process that takes time and patience.  Some dog owners become frustrated because it doesn’t seem that their dog is responding.  It’s important to understand that a new behavior will take several sessions to establish and several more sessions of practice to perfect.  And impatient dog owners who want to get it all done at once are in danger of compromising any progress that may have already been made.  A training session should be fairly short and goal-oriented.  As soon as you observe an obvious behavior result, reward your dog and end the session.

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Using Too Much Emotion

You might be able to coerce your kids into doing something by displaying anger or acting irritated, but dogs don’t operate that way.  One of the best ways to confuse your dog is to let emotions enter the training session.  Flying off the handle will not lead to positive results and your training session will turn into a confusing torture session for your dog.  Calmness is the best countenance to adopt during your training sessions in order to get things done.  When your dog does not respond correctly, simply regroup and try again.


Not being consistent is one of the most common mistakes that people make when training their dogs.  For example, if you are calm and collected during one training session and overly excited or frustrated the next session, your dog will not be able to predict your response and will live in a state of confusion.  And this makes training much more difficult if not impossible.  You must remember that dogs act in a predictable manner towards other dogs and this consistency is how a dog learns to build trust and rapport with its owner.

Save yourself a lot of frustration when it comes to training your dog by getting on the same page that he is on.  Follow these simple guidelines to avoid sending mixed signals to your dog.


Coral Jane - Comment
Coral Jane05 Mar 2014Reply
One of the most common mistakes I hear dog owners make is using the dogs's name as a command.

Instead of saying "Rex come" or "sit" all I here is Rex!. when Rex is barking, instead of hearing, "Quiet" or "enough" or "shush" and reinforcing that call with a positive distraction to bring away fro the barking ... all that's being shouted is "REX! ,. REX!" eventually Rex doesn't relate the word Rex as his name to pay attention but a word that's used for anything and everything and like kids who are exposed to "Mark, Mark " instead of "Mark come here please" they become desensitized to their name... its just nagging. No one, not even Rex responds to nagging.

Rex is the dog's name, not a command

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